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“We’re making inquiries as to the whereabouts of one Hakim Gomez. Sources have placed him in your company, Mr. Bennett. I don’t wish to name the nightclub in question.”

A bolt of ice shoots down Steven’s back, frozen lightning against his spine. His heart is thudding in his ears, his mouth too dry to bullshit an answer.

“We’ll give you forty-five minutes to consider your response. I trust you’ll make the right decision.” Click.

He lowers the phone from his ear, slowly, eyes fixed on the pile of dishes heaped beside the sink. They’ve been building up for far too long. They need washing. He can’t bring himself to move.

He isn’t sure how long it’s been when Hakim comes out of their bedroom, pulling a tight T-shirt over his mussy hair. When he sees Steven standing there, motionless and white-faced, he snaps awake: Steven can see him bracing himself, the sudden tension knotting in his chest.

“What is it?”

Steven gulps a glass of cold water, numbing his throat from what’s raging inside him. He can’t force the words from his mouth. “I just saw on the news,” he says, not quite lying – there’s more than enough bad news to choose from. “They’ve started actually reporting on it when the police lynch folks, now. Not in a good way.” More water, like ice nestling in his belly. He tries to freeze the feeling of sickness inside him. “It’s pretty much hate propaganda. The mob’ll be out in full force tonight.”

“Not what I needed.” Hakim runs a hand through his hair, spiking it upwards. “I’m starting to think it’s time to get out of here.”

“If we could.” Steven laughs, bitter, and wonders for a moment if it could be done. If they could leave everything they have, if they could ditch everything they might be tracked with. If they could make it over the border. If it’d be any better on the other side.

A small voice inside him whispers, Anything is better than dying.

Hakim empties some cereal into a bowl, then starts eating it dry, popping one piece after another into his mouth. Steven watches him, heart breaking with pain and love and fear – God, he’s beautiful, but – the voice on the phone, the cold click of a broken connection. I don’t wish to name the nightclub in question. They know. They know, and it’s not just Hakim’s life on the line.

If he hid Hakim – somehow, anywhere – (not that there’s any place he could) – or if he turned him out, sent him fleeing for the border – (maybe, maybe, one person would be safer than two – maybe – and maybe Steven’s life would still be here, his friends, his job, his – he can’t believe he’s thinking this. He can’t allow the thought to finish.)

The pile of dishes is still staring him in the face. The calendar tacked against the wall, with notes written in both their hands. Hakim’s clothes, strewn about the flat. The pair of toothbrushes in the bathroom, the pair of combs. The double set of keys in the holder. The shopping, always done for two. Receipts, utilities, the gossip of neighbours.

Evidence.

He can’t clean it all away before they come.

Hakim leans over and kisses his cheek: wordless comfort, void of empty promises. Steven turns to embrace him, burying his face in his neck. “I love you,” he whispers.

“Same to you,” Hakim answers, as always, the playful words gentled by a sombre tone. His arms are around Steven’s waist, his hands softly stroking his back.

Steven holds him, tight. He never wants to let him go.

In his pocket, the phone rings.
Written for Flash Fiction Month 2018, day 24, challenge 11: write a utopian or dystopian story which makes use of dramatic irony and contains a key scene centring around a ringing phone. This year I'm also fulfilling a challenge by an anonymous contributor: Every character must be queer.

So much for literary escapism. Today's not-so-subtly-titled story brought to you by the state of world politics right now and the Anne Frank game.

The rest of today's stories can be found here.

Wordcount: 611.

If you've enjoyed this story, you may be interested in the collection of all my FFM stories this year: Beyond Dreams. You may also enjoy my FFM collections from the previous four years: Borrowed Strength, Ephemeron, Palalgia, and Changeling.

This story is also featured in LitConquistadores' 2018 FlashFictionMonth collection, The Ruminations of a Multiheaded Monster, which can be purchased for points on dA here or through Blurb here.
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:iconsquanpie:
squanpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Echoing praise on how rounded these characters are. A very chilling story, that cuts far too close to reality for comfort! 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2018   Writer
Far too close to reality, definitely. Thank you!
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:iconblackmanaburning:
BlackManaBurning Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2018  Professional General Artist
A tense and emotional scene, filled with so many emotions, frustration, fear, desperation... some of the best and worst of humanity, for sure.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2018   Writer
Thank you! It was hard to write this.
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:iconwizardandgalaxy:
WizardandGalaxy Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
The emotion in this is so impactful.  If only it weren't a reflection of reality...
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2018   Writer
Yeah. I made myself sad writing this. :(
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:iconscfrankles:
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
I really admire you for allowing Steven to be a complex person and allowing this to be a complex situation. Even though at the end he may be about to do the wrong thing and hand over Hakim, he always remains someone it's possible to understand and sympathise with. 

And it feels almost trivial to mention it, but it's an excellent use of dramatic irony. 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2018   Writer
Thank you - it was very tricky to get the balance right as far as Steven's sympatheticness goes. I didn't want to caricaturise him, but I certainly didn't want to condone turning Hakim in either.
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2018   Writer
A difficult story for difficult times. The ringing phone is terrifying.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2018   Writer
I'm glad it was effective. Even writing it was somewhere between uncomfortable and terrifying.
Reply
:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2018
Definitely a dystopia I fear, that's for sure. This is horrifying and heartbreaking and wonderfully written.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2018   Writer
Thank you! It was a hard one to write. Hits a little close to home, and certainly moreso for others.
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July 24, 2018
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